Guest post by Jaimi Erickson at The Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide
Playing outdoors is one way for my children to explore God in their lives. Children in concrete stages of development love to explore by doing and outdoor time allows for so much exploration and learning. My children are ‘outdoor kids’, large motor machines. They need to get outside in order to keep their spirits in balance-I need that too. Thankfully summer provides a multitude of outdoor time for fun-and learning.
Having a 4-year old and a 15-month old allows me to bridge activities for two different skill levels, but two always-eager participants in any homemade ‘game’! Some summer climates limit how many hours can be spent outside in a day. When we experience temps reaching 100+degrees, or afternoon downpours, we need to adapt our outdoor plan to work inside. This list of activities can be taken outdoors, but will work inside as well. These are quick to create, low-to-no-cost (my mantra), and although are written with a preschooler in mind, I have noted how they can be adapted for younger ones.
1. Homemade Hopscotch Fun
On a rainy day, I used duct tape to create a hopscotch pattern on the back of a yoga mat. In about 10 minutes we had a new game to play that allowed us to burn some energy! We used homemade bean bags to toss. This game reinforced number recognition, exercised eye-hand coordination, and allowed for some gross motor movement to burn energy and work on balance.
[Adaptation: I encouraged my toddler to step on the numbers and then I named them, or she tossed a beanbag and I identified on which number the bag landed.]
2. Homemade Bean Bags and Games
I made bean bags with scrap fabric, dry beans, and some quick stitches on the sewing machine. They provided so much indoor (or outdoor) fun. We played “Simon Says”. (i.e. “Simon Says” put the bean bag on your head.”) We sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and placed the bean bag on each part. We tossed them into a laundry basket from different distances (marked by masking tape on the floor). We each took turns hiding one bag in order to let each other seek it out. We worked on teamwork, large motor movement and vocabulary.
[Adaptation: I made bean bags in primary colors, so they could be used for color recognition. My young toddler LOVES learning to identify new body parts, so I placed the bean bag on her head, shoulder, arm, etc. while I said the name of each part to help reinforce this learning.]
3. Drop Cloth Painting Canvas
My children love art and creating artwork to send to the grandparents, so I am always looking for new materials to explore within our budget. I found an inexpensive drop cloth and cut it in quarters. This can be pinned to a wall, lightly nailed or clamped to a fence outdoors, or taped to a window inside to allow for a large painting surface. (I wanted to do this outside, but it rained so we improvised indoors!) Increasing the surface area where they could paint, and pinning the canvas up, involved more gross motor movement and added interest.
[Adaptation: My toddler painted on the lower half while my preschooler painted near the top so they were separate by working together.]
4. Packing Peanut Snow
We live in a hot climate in the southeast. Recently our electricity was out for 48 hours during high temperatures. We needed to do anything to feel cooler. Foam packing peanuts as pretend snow were a hit in our home! My daughter and son enjoyed scooping them, piling them up, and making snow angels while laying in them on the dining room rug. What a great pretend play scenario on a hot day-play like it is cold! Just ‘thinking cold’ and ‘playing in the snow’ of the packing peanuts helped ease our cabin fever. We dropped them from above our heads and tried to catch the ‘snow flakes’ as they fell. They can even be thrown and caught allowing for more muscle movement and exercise.
All of the activities I create are based on observations of my children combined with what they need to learn as they grow to be godly individuals. There are so many ways we can add interest to our time in God’s creation outdoors-or spend our time together while playing inside depending on what the weather will allow. My first ministry mission is to my family. My children want my attention more than anything. When I combine teaching skills with activities that feed their interests in an intentional way, we have fun whether during a rainy ‘indoor day’ or an outside day in the sun.
Jaimi Erickson is a woman living in service to God’s mission. She ministers daily to her husband and two children as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. She formerly served as a teacher in the Early Childhood field. Jaimi shares motivation for stay-at-home-moms, household tips, and developmentally appropriate make-at-home activities for infants and up on her blog The Stay-At-Home-Mom Survival Guide.